More groundwater problems in pipeline project
The company doing pipeline work related to an oil and gas project in Battlement Mesa is encountering more problems with groundwater flow, but hopes to have the flow stopped within a few days.
“The good news is that we know how to stop the water (flow) now,” said Leonard Mallett, chief operations officer for Summit Midstream.
Summit is installing a water line and natural gas line in the residential community of Battlement Mesa in preparation for Ursa Resources’ pending oil and gas drilling there.
Summit initially encountered a high flow of unexpected water from an underground spring while drilling a horizontal bore for a water line to serve the Ursa project. It had to run tanker trucks around the clock to haul away water but eventually obtained a state permit to discharge the flow into a drainage leading to the Colorado River.
Summit decided to change the route for boring an associated 12-inch-diameter gas pipeline in hopes of avoiding encountering groundwater. The pilot bore it drilled hit no water, but it experienced flows as it began widening the hole to accommodate the pipe.
Unfortunately, Mallett said, Summit won’t be able to stop the flow until the drilling is finished and the pipe is installed. The company plans to use grout around the pipe to seal it off and contain the groundwater, and has determined the right mix for doing this, he said. The grout seems to be holding well for the first pipeline, he said.
He said the water volume for the second flow hasn’t been as significant as the first time. Summit has had to haul the water away in trucks during the daytime construction hours because the drilling work makes the water too murky to discharge under the state permit. It’s discharging to the river at night, when no work is occurring and the water is cleaner.
The issue is drawing scrutiny from some Battlement Mesa residents, in part because of the truck traffic. But resident Bob Arrington also worries that the disrupted groundwater will find new pathways, and the saturated earth could lead to collapsing along a hillside, threatening a home on a bluff and also potentially leading to pipeline failure. Such a slope collapse, believed to have been associated with moist soils, ruptured a gas pipeline east of Parachute in 2014.
“This whole area is all geologic historical mud/land flow materials and will, with continued saturation, collapse in the future,” Arrington said in an email airing his concerns to state regulatory officials.
“Our engineering team’s fully involved right now and we don’t foresee any problems with it right now,” said Matt Stratmann, director of health, safety and regulatory affairs for Summit Midstream.
He said because of the gas pipeline’s proximity to residents, it must meet federal regulatory requirements enforced by the state Public Utilities Commission and covering its construction and operations. The requirements cover things such as the minimum thickness of pipe walls.
Joe Molloy, section chief for PUC’s Pipeline Safety Program, said the program will follow up with Summit Midstream on the project.
He said its regulations require that the pipeline be designed for any anticipated stresses it is likely to encounter. He also said his office “absolutely” could take a look at the concerns raised by Arrington.